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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Abortion Foes Indicted Over Planned Parenthood Videos

HOUSTON (CN) - A Texas grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood for its handling of fetal tissue chose instead Monday to indict two anti-abortion activists who tried to frame the women's health care provider.

The Harris County grand jury indicted David Daleiden, director of the Center for Medical Progress, on two counts: tampering with a government record, a second-degree felony, and a misdemeanor related to the purchase of human organs.

The tampering charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the misdemeanor up to one year.

Daleiden, 26, founded the Center for Medical Progress in 2013, after a five-year stint with Live Action, an anti-abortion nonprofit known for producing covert video stings of Planned Parenthood clinics, according to publicly available data.

The grand jury also indicted Sandra Merritt, an employee of the center, on the felony government-records tampering charge.

The tampering charges stem from phony driver's licenses Daleiden and Merritt obtained "with the intent to defraud and harm another," according to the indictments.

The indictments include copies of their fake California driver's licenses. Daleiden's lists his name as Robert Daoud Sarkis and Merritt's as Susan Sarah Tennenbaum.

Planned Parenthood stated in a letter to Congress that Daleiden was involved in secretly recording its staff and patients at least 65 times over the last eight years, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement that the grand jury was investigating allegations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood's Gulf Coast branch when it decided to indict the activists instead. The jury's investigation lasted more than two months, Anderson said.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a conservative Christian radio talk show host and Houston resident, asked Anderson in August to open a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood, after a video was released that purportedly showed a researcher for the women's health organization talking about selling aborted fetal tissue, the New York Times reported.

Daleiden covertly shot the video in April 2015 while posing as a representative of a biotechnology firm seeking fetal tissue for research, then made it public.

Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied the implications of that heavily edited video, and others produced by Daleiden's organization: that it illegally sells body parts of aborted fetuses.

An article by FactCheck.org debunks the allegations. The story states that one of the full, unedited, videos the center's agents shot shows a Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly saying its clinics only want to cover the handling and shipping cost of tissue donated for scientific research, not to make money from it.

Anderson said the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

"As I said at the outset, we must go where the evidence leads us," Anderson said in the statement. "All evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case."

But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, vowed to continue the state's investigation into Planned Parenthood.

"Nothing about today's announcement in Harris County impacts the state's ongoing investigation. The state of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue," Abbott said in a statement.

Anderson declined to elaborate on the charges against Daleiden and Merritt, citing her legal obligation to keep grand jury proceedings confidential.

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